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If I were to talk freely I would say that I want an Islamic state, that I hope one day to see Britain or the US be a Muslim country. Not perhaps in the sense that everyone here has 'converted' to Islam, or it is run under some interpretation of Islamic Law, but perhaps in the sense that it is felt to be okay to live a fulfilling life here in harmony with the teachings of Islam. I would say I want my children to have access to halal food as easily as people today have access to non-halal food, and that they would find it easy to pop into the local mosque for prayers during the day. I want, most of all that they do not feel out of place, different, alien, in the land which has been their home since birth.

At the moment I, and I know from experience many others, do not feel this is possible. The wider society has taken to regarding us no longer as part of mainstream life, but rather as the Them in Us and Them. This isn't a war on islam, they say, nor is it against mainstream 'moderate' muslims, as they would define it, it is only against 'political' islam, against 'radicalisation'.

The sad truth in these comments are what anyone with some sense of the way in which people are treated already know, that 'moderate' muslims in their eyes are muslims that don't object to discrimination, don't put up a fight. Those that do, who object at racism, discrimination, abuse, and intolerance are seen as part of the hated 'political' islam.

Those who dare to go one step further and have an independent opinion on their country's foreign policy as it relates to Muslims abroad are seen as 'radicalized'. It seems to be Muslim in Britain and reassure the media, one must shackle oneself, and tear out one's throat.

Those who do not risk severe political penalties, and I refer here not to those who posture on Facebook/MySpace/Bebo with their transient groups and networking events with champagne glasses, pinstripe suits and intense smugness about how 'commited' they are to the 'cause', cannot understand what they have to lose, and more poignantly what they have already lost.

They don't feel the fear because they are not used to making any real difference, and have worked so hard to 'fit in' and mix in the 'right circles' that they have no idea what the free form of true islamic society is like, they have to substitute stitched linen for sincerity, sipping schloer from their flutes they worry about the security of the financial markets and their career prospects. Truly they are the House Negroes of today.

For those who recall their history, you will know of Malcolm X's reference to the House Negro who collaborates with slave masters to oppress of his fellow slaves, often without realizing the harm he is doing. The master reviling them still as inferior treat them as they would any other cherished pet which can perform tricks, and can be sicked onto their own kind. The field Negro on the other hand lives in the field, he knows the full extent of their cruelty because he can see it's shape, feel the suffering, and watch his loved ones torn to pieces by it day after day. They understand that when the masters house is burning, they should rejoice. Not weep beside the master like the House negro. In all important respects this analogy is as true today of muslims under the war on terror as it was for blacks under slavery's legacy a few short 40 years ago.

The Field Muslims are those who desperately need the change, who perhaps haven't felt its power, but have felt its promise. Their imams speak of a better world, a fairer world, a world without persecution, without concentration camps, without the injustice abroad and at home, about acceptance at school, at work, about family and the street.

The reality of these places, those faces who listen with rapt attention know beyond words what is meant by the justice of islam there, for they can see what the world should be like, and how it falls short. So they take the risks, not at tables, over drinks, but at the roadside by picking up the bleeding beggars and taking them to hospital. By staying late to help the teachers at school. By starting quranic circles, or by thinking about the shape of their lives. These are small changes, but even the emerald isle is covered with but single blades of grass.

It is particularly easy to be dismissive when sitting in an armchair and feeling expansive about the abstract evils of the world, the concrete good seems unreal somehow, the rain outside demotivates us, and we find it hard to imagine an existence elsewhere where a family is enjoying their first afternoon under their own new shelter, or elsewhere a person learns to read, or count, or further where a doctor sparing some time cures a child of some crippling disease and sees her smile.

It's hard to imagine those worlds when their progress is priceless, yet real, when our world is only real because of it's price.

The fault of our own chosen delusions.

Slaves only stop being slaves when they put down the tools for their oppressors, and pick them up again for themselves. We throw away what we don't need, and we fashion what our hearts desire from the ability of all muslims in this society to speak, to listen, to work together, and to share our ideas, our work, our homes, and our hearts. Keeping things concrete, working on the real, and watching the world take shape, filling out our communities with the missing pieces suddenly makes the government, the police, the politicians, and the administrators... our oppressors... recede.

There is no point asking your oppressor for freedom, your right to live free. They can't give you our own opinion of yourself, your own consciousness. When you know you are equal, always have been, and have been wronged... that is when the oppressor steps back, for you are no longer a slave, and your chains are broken.

I'm not saying we should react to the injustices in our society with further injustice, just that we have lives to live, communities to grow, and love to share amongst ourselves. The freed slaves didn't destroy America, neither did India declare war on the UK. Our destination is Paradise not vengeance, those who oppress us will be punished, in this life or the next.

Our only task is to live free.


 

Knowing Dr Ahmed personally, and having been invited personally to that particular book launch speech in Imperial College London earlier last year I was able to ask him in front of the audience which of the 'three types of muslims' he himself was. My old friend seemed slightly taken aback by this but recovered admirably to say that he was a 'modern muslim' and thus Aligarth. Unfortunately as a lot of the audience there realized, he was simply transposing the dove-myself-hawk model found in all high-school grade textbooks onto the islamic world.

It's what you do when you've been raised from birth to speak English, drink tea, wear neatly pressed oxford suits, and speak with the Oxford Voice. There is nothing wrong with any of these things however there is nothing intrinsically Islamic in any of these either, and there lies the point. He confused culture with religion, moral choices with historical trends, and in so doing provided an array of platitudes for his audience. He is a very nice man, very intelligent, and very kind. He is also a House Muslim in every sense of the word. Malcolm X would have called him a tame nigger, and while I would have objected, I can see why the term would stick in the minds of those unfamiliar with his sincerity.

The remaining authorities cited for a 'solution' to the 'islamic problem' are from the Christian Science Monitor, and a US Navy Lieutenant with too much time on his hands. Both trying to crawl their way out of obscurity. Throw in some inflammatory rhetoric, some distorted press pieces, and scarcely veiled hatred of Islam, and voila... one completely ineffectual writeup from =b=.

Among the many repugnant ideas promulgated of late by Islamist apologists is the notion that the world's Muslim population has been victimized by the western world and that the unending catalog of sociopathic acts of terror committed in the name of Islam are a legitimate response to this perceived injustice.  Perhaps the most egregious example of this among some American Muslims is the recent attempt to link the modern Islamist movement with the struggle for civil rights by American Blacks.  The connection is historically, culturally and ethically absurd.  In the course of history, Muslims have been the oppressors more often than the oppressed, slavers more often than the enslaved, perpetrators more often than victims. Islam's fundamental discomfort with non-Muslims is inherently racist and the discrimination against non-Muslims has been a historical feature of every society dominated by Islam. Worse yet, this spurious logic is intended to beguile moderate Muslims into embarking on the path to radicalization, and to create a common cause among the western cultural liberals who have a autonomic sympathy with class struggles of any kind. 

Moderate Muslims who have been ostracized and intimidated physically and politically by the Islamists have a legitimate claim to victimization. The majority of Muslims living in the west enjoy the benefits of a pluralistic society and are raising their children within the spiritual and devotional guidelines of Islam.  In the last several decades, this quiet majority has been under attack from radical Islamists promoting Wahhabist, Salafist, & Qutbist ideologies who are forcefully attempting to wrest control of Islam for political and ideological purposes.  This phenomenon has been amply documented by Muslims such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji who have suffered death threats and worse for challenging Islamist ideas.  A moderate Muslim who opposes the Islamist agenda becomes its target.

Many in the West have wondered about the relative paucity of opposition among moderate Muslims at the hijacking of their religion by radical Islamists.  The answer to this is that devotional Muslims who oppose the radicals are intimidated and, afraid.  Unlike the extremists, they practice a spiritual and apolitical devotion to their faith and lack an understanding of the penetration and control that Islamism has gained over the Ummah or world Islamic community.  

Akbar S. Ahmed was formerly the Pakistani high commissioner to Britain and has been on the faculties of Harvard, Princeton and Cambridge.  He is currently the chair of Islamic Studies at American University.  He is a great example of what most non-Muslims would consider an Islamic moderate.  His recent book, Journey into Islam, chronicles his travels throughout the modern Islamic world, with three of his students, in search of trends in modern Islamic thought.  What he finds is profoundly disheartening.  Mr. Ahmet explains in his book the Ummah can be roughly divided into three major categories of Islamic culture: Aligarth, Ajmer and Deoband.  Ajmer represents the peaceful Sufi mysticism that many westerners have historically associated with all of Islam.  Aligarth, represented by Ahmed himself, is the desire to modernize Islam without corrupting it, and Deoband, a product of the 14th century when Islam was under attack by Mongol invaders, represents a rejection of the open acceptance of non-Muslims, the core beliefs of modern Islamists.  In short, he reports  that the mystical and progressive forms of Islam, Aligarth and Ajmer are on the wane and the Islamist radicalism represented by Deoband is aggressively on the rise.

In Mr. Ahmed's words:

"The progressive and active Aligarth model had become enfeebled and in danger of being overtaken by the Deoband model ... I felt like a warrior in the midst of the fray who knew the odds were against him but never quite realized that his side had already lost the war."

As the journalist Tony Blankley notes in his book, The West's Last Chance the Islamists are resourceful and determined. They have adroitly co-opted the rhetoric and ideological tactics of the extreme left, but their agenda is more fascist than socialist. Their goals have been clearly and repeatedly stated.  What they seek is a world wide Islamic state embodied in the restoration of the Caliphate which would rule under Sharia law.

The Christian Science Monitor's, James Brandon reporting from Amman, Jordan sums it up this way:

The three middle-aged men sitting in an Indian restaurant in Jordan's capital scarcely look like Islamic revolutionaries. They are smartly dressed in Western-style suits and sip thoughtfully from cans of Pepsi as they share their plan to reshape the Muslim world. "President Bush says that we want to enslave people and oppress their freedom of speech," says Abu Abdullah, a senior member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Party of Liberation. "But we want to free all people from being slaves of men and make them slaves of Allah. Hizb ut-Tahrir says that Muslims should abolish national boundaries within the Islamic world and return to a single Islamic state, known as "the Caliphate," that would stretch from Indonesia to Morocco and contain more than 1.5 billion people."

When an impressionable and idealistic young Muslim voices something like the following, "If I were to talk freely I would say that I want an Islamic state, that I hope one day to see Britain or the US be a Muslim country,"  he no doubt imagines an earthly paradise where spirituality reigns and the corruption and excesses of modern Western society are absent.  Unfortunately, the harsh reality of life in every Islamic state throughout the course of history has been one of grotesque inequality, brutal repression and almost unimaginably barbaric despotism.  The following quote from a recent article in USA Today hammers home the reality of Sharia Law.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The Saudi judiciary on Tuesday defended a court verdict that sentenced a 19-year-old victim of a gang rape to six months in jail and 200 lashes because she was with an unrelated male when they were attacked. The Shiite Muslim woman had initially been sentenced to 90 lashes after being convicted of violating Saudi Arabia's rigid Islamic law requiring segregation of the sexes. But in considering her appeal of the verdict, the Saudi General Court increased the punishment. It also roughly doubled prison sentences for the seven men convicted of raping the woman, Saudi news media said last week. The reports triggered an international outcry over the Saudis punishing the victim of a terrible crime. But the Ministry of Justice stood by the verdict Tuesday, saying that "charges were proven" against the woman for having been in a car with a man who was not her relative.

Another, more recent example of Islamist barbarity:

Mentally Disabled Women Used in Bombings

By STEVEN R. HURST
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD (AP) -- Two women described as mentally disabled and strapped with remote-control explosives - and possibly used as unwitting suicide bombers - brought carnage Friday to two pet bazaars, killing at least 91 people in the deadliest day since Washington flooded the capital with extra troops last spring. Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, Iraq's chief military spokesman in Baghdad, said the women had Down syndrome and may not have known they were on suicide missions, but gave no further details on how authorities pieced together the evidence. He also said the bombs were detonated by remote control.

So, what's the answer to this dilemma?  Clearly there's no one answer, but M. Zuhdi Jasser, a former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander and the president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, offers the following wise words as a recipe for turning the Ummah in a more productive direction:

I was raised to appreciate American freedom which guaranteed my right to life, liberty, and the practice of my personal faith of Islam, like in no so-called Muslim country. My grandfather used to talk about how the devastation of Syria brought by the military coups and the Baathists, and ultimately by Hafez Assad, was allowed to happen because moderate freedom-loving Syrians abandoned the military to the thugs, who ultimately repeatedly savaged the country, before entrenching the Assad family despots for generations.

I have always been a devout practicing Muslim maintaining a central personal spiritual relationship with God in my life. I have also held true to the importance of spiritual practices in my life including fasting, daily prayer, scriptural recitation, charity, community worship, and personal integrity. As a result, I have often been asked by the local communities in which I have lived, to speak about Islam, its role in my life, and my understanding of its history. Well, before 9/11, in the 1980s, as I found myself frustrated by the politicization of many but not all of the Muslim communities in which I participated, I began to focus on the main problem I experienced — the harmful impact of political Islam upon the practice of Islam in America.

A moral, pluralistic, spiritual Islam is the only way to defeat Islamofascism. We saw with the London plots this summer, perpetrated by Muslim physicians, that this ideology utilizes terror as a tactic to achieve fascistic political ends blind to the professional training or level of education of the individual foot soldiers. The ends which these militants seek, is a warped, utopian dream of a caliphate or some form of so-called Islamic state, which imposes their despotic theocratic interpretation of Islamic law upon citizens. The Nazis had physicians and professionals of all walks of life helping them to commit genocide against the Jews through a supremacist dehumanization of their enemies — true fascism. So too do militant Islamists dehumanize their enemies (anti-Islamists) and exact their barbaric punishments upon innocents in an evil torn right out of the pages of every fascist regime in history.

Our only task is to live free....of religious extremism


Relevant Links

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-11-20-saudi-rape_N.htm?csp=34

http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0510/p01s04-wome.html

http://www.aifdemocracy.org/

 

I'm loath to wade into this controversial topic but though I agree with some of =b='s sentiments I feel compelled to object to a few inflammatory, almost bigoted rhetorical flourishes. Do people really believe Islam or "Islamofascism" is the prime motivator of terrorist action?

 

1) ...unending catalog of sociopathic acts of terror committed in the name of Islam are...

I do not propose to argue from moral arithmetic but let's just note here that in any reasonable measure of "sociopathic acts of terror", those commited by Western powers dwarf those "committed in the name of Islam". Al-Qaeda may envy the US ability to "shock and awe" but does not have at its disposal, for example, B-52 bombers to drop "surgically targeted" fuel-air bombs or cluster munitions. It also lacks the ability to enforce sanctions which push child mortality to unprecedented heights. The difference is that the West claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of force and those who oppose power or resist occupation are definitionally terrorists.

Acts of terror by Islamists against civilians are, I absolutely agree, horrific and deplorable. They are not a legitimate response to injustice. They are however, almost always a response. They are not, I would argue - with the possible exception of sectarian violence between Muslims - primary actions motivated by religion, racism or fascism.

 

2) Islam's fundamental discomfort with non-Muslims is inherently racist and the discrimination against non-Muslims has been a historical feature of every society dominated by Islam.... every Islamic state throughout the course of history has been one of grotesque inequality, brutal repression and almost unimaginably barbaric despotism.

Let me be entirely unambiguous : I deplore and condemn Osama bin Laden and his actions. This is no reason however, to mischaracterise his position and the position of other militant Islamists. If we are to overcome terrorism, we must seek out its true root and branch, not invent them on the basis of our own perceived moral superiority.

The "discomfort" of the Islamists - note, not Islam per se - is more to do with the fear of attack, theft, occupation and territorial dispossession than the race or religion of those doing these things. If someone broke into your house, killed your cat, stole everything and set the place on fire, you wouldn't hate them because of the colour of their hair or what they had for breakfast or their opinion on the Manichean heresy. At least, if you did, it would not be foremost in your mind. Saying that Islamists commit acts of terror because their religion is inherently racist is as bizarre as George W. Bush's assertion that they act because they hate freedom.

To anyone who wants to understand why Osama bin Laden orchestrates acts of terror, I'd suggest a reasonable place to start would be his own statements and justifications, in which religious rhetoric is secondary. Take this statement for example:

"I say to you that security is an indispensable pillar of human life and that free men do not forfeit their security, contrary to Bush's claim that we hate freedom. If so, then let him explain to us why we don't strike for example - Sweden?" 1

Bin Laden goes on to add that one of his prime motivators was the 1982 invasion of Lebanon2. This in no way justifies bin Laden's attacks on civilians. It does tell us what his self-proclaimed justification was - and it was not "I hate infidels and want to found an Islamic state." Of course, saying that terrorists hate freedom or are inherently racist or fascist is simpler, easier and less "repugnant" than a discussion of US foreign policy. In fact, why not extend these sentiments to an entire religion and spare ourselves the burden of self-reflection?

As for the statement that all Islamic history is barbarism, despotism and repression, well. I'm not a Muslim or an Historian and I don't think this is the place for an essay on the glories of Islamic civilisation. I am aware however, that there were some. After all, those craters on the Moon weren't named after famous Muslim terrorists. The spirit of freedom of religious conscience, exchange of ideas and scientific enquiry at periods in Islamic Spain for instance, contributed directly to the Italian Renaissance.

 

1. http://english.aljazeera.net/English/archive/archive?ArchiveId=7403
2. Noam Chomsky has written exhaustively on this invasion in his book, "The Fateful Triangle".

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